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How to Plan Your Day: The Complete Guide to Everyday Productivity

Time Blocking

With the Time Blocking method, split your day into distinct blocks of time. Then, dedicate each block of time to completing only a specific task or set of tasks.

Ensure to include blocks for things like lunch, breaks, and commutes for the most accuracy. If a task takes less or more time, make modifications to your list to gain a better understanding of how long tasks take.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

How to Plan Your Day: The Complete Guide to Everyday Productivity

How to Plan Your Day: The Complete Guide to Everyday Productivity

https://doist.com/blog/how-to-plan-your-day/

doist.com

10

Key Ideas

Make planning a habit

Some mornings we feel motivated to create a to-do list, but that is often the exception. We need to get things done, even when we feel disengaged.

Start by setting the alarm for your daily planning session at the same time every day. Tack your new daily planning session onto an existing habit like drinking your morning coffee.

Align your to-do list with goals

  1. Break down your big goals into daily tasks. You can't add "Get in shape" to your daily to-do list, but you can add "spend 30 minutes on my bike."
  2. Consider your week as a whole. You likely have multiple goals. Some goals benefit from daily activity, while working towards others a few times a week can create momentum.
  3. Add your have-to-do tasks last. We often fill our to-do lists with have-to-do tasks that crowd the whole day. Adding it last forces you to fit your have-to-do tasks around your goal tasks.

Have one daily priority

Many of us start our mornings with dozens of things we need to get done, but later realize that we haven't crossed any of them off our lists. We did get stuff done, but none of the things we planned.

A balm against hectic days that pass without progress is to choose a single activity to prioritize and protect in your calendar. If you struggle to select your top priority, ask yourself, when you look back on your day, what do you want the highlight to be? That's your priority.

Eat the Frog

'Eat the Frog' is an excellent productivity method for putting your highlight into action early.

It is often the task we most want to avoid (therefore, eating the frog). It could be a task that feels too big or makes us uncomfortable. During your planning session, put your "frog" at the top of your to-do list and assign a time. Then add your other tasks below.

Pomodoro Technique

This method is best for people who enjoy working in short, focused sprints with frequent breaks. It forces you to consider how long your work will take.

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on a single task until the timer rings.
  • When the session ends, mark off one pomodoro and record what you completed.
  • Take a five-minute break.
  • After four pomodori, take a more extended, half-hour break.

Time Blocking

With the Time Blocking method, split your day into distinct blocks of time. Then, dedicate each block of time to completing only a specific task or set of tasks.

Ensure to include blocks for things like lunch, breaks, and commutes for the most accuracy. If a task takes less or more time, make modifications to your list to gain a better understanding of how long tasks take.

Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix productivity method lets you consider the urgency and importance of each task. This method breaks tasks into four quadrants and prescribes how we should deal with tasks in each block.

  1. Urgent and Important tasks: should be completed immediately.
  2. Not Urgent and Important tasks: should be scheduled on your to-do list.
  3. Urgent and Unimportant tasks: should be delegated to someone else.
  4. Not Urgent and Unimportant tasks: should be deleted.

To start, create your regular to-do list, then sort them into the four categories. Once completed, act on your to-do list accordingly: do, schedule, delegate, and delete tasks from your to-do list.

Choose your planning tool

Now that you've decided on the productivity approach, it's time to pick your tools:

  • A to-do list app: A digital task manager is great for those who are tech-savvy.
  • A digital list is useful if you're not into a task-manager but still want a digital solution, such as a word processing app or Google sheets.
  • A digital calendar: Many people opt for a daily planning tool, like Apple Calendar or Google Calendar.
  • A paper planner can take several forms, including notebooks, agendas, or specialized planners.
  • A digital and paper hybrid: You might enjoy a paper first, digital second option where you transfer your to-dos from a paper onto a digital task manager for easy reference.

How to stick with your daily plan

  • Eliminate disctractions that pull you away from your objectives for the day. Work with most of your desktop programs closed, your phone on silent, and your notifications off.
  • Track your time. Tracking your time can help you work more effectively.
  • Try hourly check-ins. Regularly check in with yourself to notice if you're moving through your day with focus.
  • Readjust your plan. When unanticipated work arises, take a few minutes to readjust your plan for the day. Then work off of your new plan.
  • Get to "To Do List Zero." While you want to have zero tasks on your to-do list, it is an opportunity to take stock of where you're at, re-evaluate your tasks, and re-plan them.

Reflect regularly

Make time for a weekly review to consider whether your planning process is working or could be tweaked. Consider these questions:

  • Are my days calm and intentional or stressful and irregular?
  • Did I complete all my daily planning sessions or skip some?
  • Do I feel accomplished at the end of most days?
  • Are my high priority days being addressed?
  • Am I on track to meet my long-term goals?
  • This day was especially productive — why?
  • I accomplished nothing impactful on this day — why?

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

The weekly review

It’s dedicated time to think about the past week, reflect on what went well and what didn’t, and plan for the week ahead. 

It’s a chance to get aligned with your goals and ensure ...

The 3 parts of a weekly review
  • Get Clear: process all your loose-ends.
  • Get Current: make sure all your items are up to date.
  • Get Creative: come up with new ideas to improve how you live and work.
Benefits of weekly reviews
  • You gain an objective view of the week: a weekly review forces you to practice intention by taking time to pause and reflect as you consider what you did versus what you planned to do.
  • You become proactive in planning: a weekly review isn’t only a retrospective, but a prospective too. It lets you run through the upcoming Monday to Friday proactively.

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Become more organized
Become more organized

In order to be successful and reach your goals, you need to be organized.

One first step in this direction refers to starting your day planning: choosing the agenda that wo...

Practice a lot

Acquiring organizational skills, as in getting better at planning, can take a while. While finding the appropriate agenda is essential, making a habit out of using it is just as important.

Plan important moments monthly

When preparing your schedule on a monthly basis, make sure to add not only the daily tasks and objectives, but also the big moments.

For instance, integrating your friends' birthdays can prove both useful and time saving for the future.

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Productivity Shame
Productivity Shame

Work is never finished, and we are unable to disconnect from it, causing us to experience productivity shame, impacting our happiness and creativity.

The modern working pro...

The Busyness Paradox: Addicted To Being Busy
  • Personal productivity is not about all-round efficiency, and it is wrong to think about your input as that of a machine in a factory unit.
  • This is further complicated by our mistaken assumption that being in demand means that we are doing a splendid job.
  • We blur our all boundaries between our work and personal life and every minute of the day is to be kept busy as we rush to attend every meeting, cross out every task from the to-do list or to answer every email that we get.
Completion Bias

Our brain starts to favour small tasks that give a false impression of productivity (woohoo! I just sent out fifty emails!) while we neglect the large, complex but meaningful tasks.

This is known as the completion bias.

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The urgency bias
The urgency bias

We usually give priority to unimportant tasks when there is a sense of urgency around them.

We’re actually psychologically wired to put aside important tasks in favor of ta...

Why it’s hard to ignore urgent tasks

A few explanations as to why it’s so hard to reject urgent tasks:

  • The completion bias. Our brains crave the reward we get from checking off small to-dos from our list.
  • Tunnel vision: When we get overwhelmed by the things we have to do, we choose to act on those most available to us; these are usually emails, calls, meetings, and other low-friction tasks.
Urgency puts us into reactive mode

The problem is that we’re continually bombarded with urgent work: emails, meetings, calls, and instead of being in control of our time and attention, we respond and act on someone else’s priorities.

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By the hour

This works well for the chronic procrastinator: those who say they will do it later and then wonder why it never gets done.

Instead of getting overwhelmed, tackle your to-do l...

The Pomodoro Method

Rather than trying to work flat-out, break down your day into a series of work-sprints with a short rest period after each session.

Set a timer for 25 min and focus exclusively on your work for that time, take a 5 min break, and repeat.

Some people find that taking a 5 min break destroys their flow. But it does help to break long complex tasks into a series on manageable sprints.

The 2-minute rule

The 2-minute rule is a strategy for quickly assessing and taking action on small tasks so they don’t take up too much mental energy.

Ask yourself if a task is going to take you 2 minutes or less. If so, just do it.

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Brian Tracy

Time management is not a peripheral activity or skill. It is the core skill upon which everything else in life de..."

Brian Tracy
Work Around Your Energy Levels

Productivity is directly related to your energy level.

Find your most productive hours — the time of your peak energy — and schedule Deep Work for those periods. Do low-value and low-energy tasks (also known as shallow work), such as responding to emails or unimportant meetings, in between those hours.

Plan Your Day the Night Before

Before going to bed, spend 5 minutes writing your to-do list for the next day. These tasks should help you move towards your professional and personal goals.

You’ll be better prepared mentally for the challenges ahead before waking up and there won’t be any room for procrastination in the morning. As a result, you’ll work faster and smoother than ever before.

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Time Debt
Time Debt

The choices we make to ‘borrow’ our personal time to get work done works against us in the long run, just like the money borrowed from a credit card has to be paid back with interest in the future....

Track Your Time

You need to find out just where your time is going currently. You can use a pen and paper, a spreadsheet, or an app to visualize where you spend most of the hours in your day.

Create A Time-Blocking Template
  • Block your time for specific types of work, not individual tasks.
  • Block your time for core work like coding, designing or writing, for shallow work like daily tasks and maintenance, for meetings and emails, and fill it with frequent breaks to replenish yourself.
  • Give yourself space between blocks so that you can decompress and keep your energy levels high.

9 more ideas

Time blocking
Time blocking

It's the practice of planning out every moment of your day in advance and dedicating specific time “blocks” for certain tasks and responsibilities.

When you fill your c...

Time blocking and focus

By scheduling every minute of your day you not only guard against distraction but also multiply your focus.

Also, focusing on one task at a time can make you up to 80% more productive than splitting your attention across multiple tasks.

Cons of the time blocking practice
  • It takes a lot of time and effort.
  • Few of us (if any) have the same schedule every day.
  • We’re bad at estimating how long tasks will take to do.
  • Constant interruptions and “urgent” tasks can destroy your system.
  • Flexibility is key in most workplaces.
  • You can lose sight of the bigger picture if you focus just on each day.

2 more ideas

Perfectionism and to-do lists

To-do lists can help perfectionists move past our paralysis. They may find making a list to be a reassuring guide to their day.

But there's also a risk: to-do lists can backfire i...

Break down projects

 ... into manageable tasks. 

This way, you're armed with a set of concrete actions to take rather a vague cloud of high expectations.

Define the next action

... rather than all subsequent steps.

Focusing only on the next action gives you permission to work on something even if you don’t have it all figured out—which is crucial to completing tasks that in the past have left you paralyzed.

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There is no perfect method for everyone

There is no "one size fits all schedule" for maximum productivity.

Because we all have particular strengths and weaknesses when it comes to time management and productivity, what works...

The Time Blocking Method

It involves planning out your day in advance and dedicating specific hours to accomplish specific tasks. 

It’s important to block out both proactive blocks (when you focus on important tasks) and reactive blocks (when you allow time for requests and interruptions).

The Most Important Task Method (MIT)

Instead of writing a big to-do list and trying to get it all done, determine the 1-3 tasks that are absolutely essential and then focus on those tasks during the day. 

You don’t do anything else until you’ve completed the three essential tasks.

2 more ideas